Cantabs 2 vs Cambridge Exiles is always a good game. Last season we managed a win over the blood and sand in a friendly, but couldn't quite manage the league victories. The last time we encountered each other is a sore memory for this captain, we had worked so hard to get a late lead in the game only to have it snatched away as Cambridge charged down and scored off the last kick of the match. Thoughts of last season however, were not in the minds of the squad who turned up for Saturday's game: Cantabs were here to continue the recent run of impressive form.
Glorious weather greeted us and conditions were perfect on the 1st team pitch at Volac park. Cantabs kicked off and immediately set about the task of stopping Cambridge coming through. The first 20 minutes were intense, but play didn't seem to move outside of the area between our ten metre line and the opposition 22. Both sides had big runners and both sides were using them, Dave O Niell and Tozer making ground for the Cs, but for now defence stood tight. The first score came when the ball fell to Cambridge hands during open play. They spotted where the space was and quickly and effectively moved the ball through the hands to their winger, who went on to score. 5-0
Not long afterwards and Cantabs were starting to settle into the game plan. While Cambridge's backs were young and organised, we realised that we could make inroads by crashing up in our forwards. Plenty of strong runners, but more importantly plenty of support on our behalf and we made our way deep into the opposition half. The ball was moved to Chris who had Ollie Lewis charging up inside him, a quick pop and Ollie found himself under the posts - easy kick for Chris and the score was 5-7.
Things were starting to heat up in the game but the defence from Cantabs was superb. Fraser, Laurence, Dave, Ollie and Jon were brilliant in their organisation and tackling, allowing none of the frankly huge Cambridge pack to smash through. Cantabs managed to win possession in the opposition 22 and move the ball out to Chris at 10, who found himself being tackled by the swinging boot of the Cambridge flanker. The ref did not catch this, but he did see Chris's reaction to the incident which caused him to put his hand into his pocket and reward our fly half with 10 minutes to cool down on the touchline.
Refusing to be unhinged by the missing halfback, Cantabs scored again quickly. Jon Lineham showed his power and made his way over the line following some exceptional open play throughout the team. With Chris still off the pitch, Josh stepped up and slotted a tremendous drop goal. 5-14
Despite having the majority of possession and territory, Cambridge again managed to move the ball quickly through their hands for a second try. Craig made an almighty effort to stop the player on the try line, but the grounding was made 12-14
Following the unsteady start to the season we had with regards to lineouts and scrums, the last couple of weeks have shown a massive improvement. Today we were outsized at scrum time but the pack held steady and refused to let Cambridge dictate this area of play. In the final stages of the first half Cantabs won a scrum on the opposition 22 and moved it quickly to the backs. Chris West put in a cheeky grubber kick and then made his way through to touch it down, a great bit of skill 12-19
Half time came around and Cantabs made 2 changes on the back row - Dave and Fraser leaving the field having put in an impressive shift for youngsters Ollie and Finn.
Early on in the second half and Cantabs did a well worked maul from a lineout, encroaching on the opposition's try line. After a couple of phases Jon made his way over the line with the ball again, but with so many players around did he ground it? Sir thought not and the try was not given. However we didn't leave the Cambridge end empty handed as Chris put a penalty through the uprights to put the score at 12-22.
50 minutes into the game and Cantabs were dealt a hefty blow - Danny was given a straight red card for a punch and we were to play the rest of the game with 14 men. Debutant Ollie moved from no. 8 to prop and Jon would take on lineout delivery responsibilities.
The second half was a hard battle with some quality rugby from both teams. The Cambridge 10 controlled their game well and tried to find a hole in our defence, but Drew and newcomer Thom in the centres were not going to let the Red and Yellows through again. Cambridge continued to throw big forwards at us, constantly testing our fringes but the pack dig in and fronted up with Nat barking the orders. We were now chasing our 4th try - we wanted the bonus point and we nearly got it at several points. Craig was running hard, but remained 1 sidestep short of the line and both Robbo and Chris K were also getting involved, playing well all game.
Keith was brought on for Thom at 13, aiming to mix up the attack and burst through and fresh legs were brought on in the back row - Tom on for Laurence, who had been superb all day. However there was to be another setback for Cantabs - young Finn is clearly an aggressive tackler, but the referee deemed his hit on the opposition 10 to be outside of the laws and our 3rd card of the game was received - Finn sent to the sin bin for what would be the rest of the match.
Cantabs, now playing with 13 refused to let off and finally we were rewarded with the bonus point we craved. Drew did what he does best, running hard and weaving his way through the opposition's tiring defence. He scored in the corner to make the score 12-27.
Cambridge had not given up either though, and a Cantabs error allowed them to send a penalty kick to the corner. With 2 men missing from our pack, Cambridge executed a brilliant catch and drive and earned a well-deserved consolation try. The final score was 19-27.
- Defence was yet again superb, especially with men off the field - Cantabs 2s have still let in the fewest points so far in the league.
- Fantastic to welcome 4 players to Cantabs - Thom, Finn, Ollie and Tom all made their debut and all proved their worth on the pitch.
- Solid line-out and scrums, despite a change in front row and entire replacement of back row.
- Keith's big hit towards the end of the game.
- Level of discipline was unacceptable.
Man Of The Match could have gone to a number of players, but this week goes to Ollie Lewis for his constant tackling, line out work and a great try.
Dick Of The Day goes to Finn Morrison, who lasted 30 mins of his first game before getting yellow carded for a ridiculous little pushing match.
Another good win for Cantabs - Haverhill, Walden and Cambridge in consecutive weeks is a massive achievement and everyone should be proud of themselves. On top of that Cantabs is putting out 3 teams each week and this Saturday was the 4th time this season all of our teams have won at once.